All in the mind

I passed my car-driving theory test this morning. I managed 100% on the multiple choice (which sounds impressive until you realise it’s six slips away from failure) but only 73% on the hazard perception, lower than any of the practice runs I’d had: given how noddy everyone considers the exam to be, that came as a bit of a surprise. The pass mark was 58%, so I suppose I was comfortably—twelve points out of a possible seventy-five—above that.

For those unaware of the vagaries of the UK driving test, before doing the practical, one-hour test accompanied by a representative of the Driving Standards Agency, everyone now has to do a variable-length sit-down quiz which is an exercise in cramming as much as anything else: cramming can be a virtue, though, when what you’ve crammed might (a) never be taught to you any other way and (b) save someone’s life one day. Part of this is sitting in front of video clips, clicking whenever “a hazard starts to develop.” If you click in a funny way—yes, I know—then you can be accused of cheating by the program and it gives you zero out of five for that clip.

Unfortunately, the definitions of the noun and verbs within those inverted commas are so badly explained, and correspond so poorly to the common usage of the words, that it’s difficult to gauge what the DSA actually wants from you. I did a fair amount of practice, though, with a DVD of shaky, overhazarded clips from an official DSA copyist, enough in fact to exhaust its meagre supply of video. The problem is that nothing prepares you for the timing and feel of the DSA’s own system, and it was just good luck that meant I managed to get through the entire test without losing any clip to “cheating”.

I recommend anyone about to take the test does some practice, of course, and any DVD is probably as good as any other, by which I mean none of them will give you the experience of the actual test centre. Of course, if you really want to practice, then given the test costs around £20–£30 you could simply plan to take it twice, the first time with the intention of failing. Don’t expect them to give you the same videos the second time, though. Even (what looks suspiciously like) a PFI wouldn’t be that daft.

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